Rail workers stage walkout in Weston for better working conditions and job security

RMT union members picket outside Weston train station. 

RMT union members picket outside Weston train station. Picture: Charlie Williams. - Credit: Archant

Rail workers from the RMT union were out on strike last week as they walked-out for better working conditions in the sector. 

In the biggest rail industrial action in more than 30 years, around 50,000 workers across the country staged a walkout last week to demand the government does more to protect thousands of jobs in the industry.

Many passengers on GWR lines saw heavy disruption last week as only 30 per cent of services were running and some stations were not serviced entirely. 

This comes after a three-year effective pay freeze on wages in the midst of a cost of living crisis. RMT say the industrial action is not about a pay rise, but rather a 'fight against an 11 per cent pay cut'.

Network Rail intend to cut safety inspectors and outsource their work to agency staff, but said it does not expect to make anyone redundant who does not want leave as there are currently 2,000 vacancies in the company.

Union members picketed opposite Weston train station on Tuesday (June 21), Thursday (June 23) and Saturday (June 25) from 7am to 6pm. 

RMT union members picket outside Weston train station. Picture: Charlie Williams.

RMT union members picket outside Weston train station. Picture: Charlie Williams. - Credit: Archant

Train dispatcher and assistant branch secretary for RMT Bristol, Bob Lawrence, said: "The government want driver-only trains but they don't realise how necessary everyone who works on the line is to passenger safety.

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"We make the trains safe for customers and assist with their needs such as disabilities and impairments. 

"But we've seen a huge change in the type of commuters who use us - it's now leisurely tourists who are frequently older. They need more help with accessing our services and ensuring they arrive safe and on time.

"We've been here for three days now and have had an amazing response from people walking and driving by who want thank us for standing up for workers rights.

"Private companies have been given huge sums of taxpayer money to protect our jobs over the last two years and it's all gone into the pockets of shareholders.

"Enough is enough - we want a public service to be run for the public, by the public."

RMT union members picket outside Weston train station. Picture: Charlie Williams.

RMT and Bakers union members picket outside Weston train station. Picture: Charlie Williams. - Credit: Archant

Representatives from the Bakers union and USDAW also pitched outside Weston with RMT members.

Jobs in the sector face insecurity as the government plan to impose £2.2billion in cuts to the rail network which will include closing ticket offices and reducing staff.

RMT members include everyone on the rail network such as guards, signallers, catering staff and cleaners. The union says it wants a 'written guarantee' from the rail operator that no compulsory redundancies will be made as part of planned reforms.

Speaking to the BBC, a Department for Transport spokesperson said: "Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is hugely disappointing and premature that the RMT is going ahead with industrial action.

"The government committed £16billion to keep our railways running throughout the pandemic while ensuring not a single worker lost their job."